The New York Knicks have turned things around (or have they?), but remain one of the lesser playoff teams as we finish out the regular season. Meanwhile, we are beginning to have clarity in all playoff chases, which means that some teams are vying not for a desperate No. 8 seed, but preferred draft positions. Let the tanking begin!
16. New York Knicks (38-38, Prev: 17) -- Three straight wins, a Player-of-the-Indeterminate-Time-Period award for Carmelo Anthony and an official invitation to the playoffs has New York flying high. Realists would drop a "but" in the very next clause, but I think all fans should be entitled to a piece of the pie and the peace to enjoy it.
17. Phoenix Suns (37-39, Prev: 15) -- Despite the respectable season Phoenix put together, I'm not sure any roster is a bigger mess. (Well, Minnesota might get those honors.) Isn't there a bit of Denver potential here, with eight or nine solid players? Alvin Gentry simply hasn't been able to get the parts to work together well enough to make it shine. He's a good coach (as evidenced by 2010), but this roster doesn't seem to suit him.
19. Milwaukee Bucks (31-45, Prev: 18) -- How does Milwaukee go about fixing its offense? John Salmons, with that contract, isn't going anywhere. Will a healthy Andrew Bogut next year (knock on wood) be help enough? Does Brandon Jennings need to change his mode of attach? Does Scott Skiles need an offensive coordinator?
21. Los Angeles Clippers (30-47, Prev: 22) -- DeAndre Jordan is in for an interesting offseason. He'll be a restricted free agent, and as a young big man, he should be in some demand. But he's also limited enough that most teams who'd otherwise be willing to pay him well should be focused on more well-rounded targets. Add in the fact that free agency may not happen until January, and you've got one odd situation.
22. Utah Jazz (36-41, Prev: 19) -- The Jazz can boast two of the least productive lottery-pick rookies in Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward. But each has plenty of promise (the former more than the latter), and Utah is obviously ready to show some patience.
23. Detroit Pistons (26-50, Prev: 24) -- If not for that long Rip Hamilton time-out administered by John Kuester, the Pistons might actually have been in position to take the No. 8 seed. Hamilton's been Detroit's best player since re-entering the rotation.
24. Charlotte Bobcats (32-44, Prev: 23) -- The NBA's best chance at recreating the NCAA Championship Game comes when the Bobcats meet the Cavaliers on Tuesday. If only we could somehow add the Bucks ...
25. Sacramento Kings (22-54, Prev: 25) -- Things are looking up
in Sacramento for the Kings, with Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton meshing well and DeMarcus Cousins getting his spirit under some level of control. If only a gym could drop out of the sky ...
26. Washington Wizards (20-56, Prev: 28) -- Good news! Jordan Crawford is scoring 22 points per game over the Wizards' last 10. Bad news! Crawford is shooting 40 percent from the floor and 28 percent on three-pointers.
27. Toronto Raptors (21-55, Prev: 26) -- If things get crazy and Mike D'Antoni does end up in Toronto, Jose Calderon and Leandro Barbosa will do just fine. The lack of a proven finisher around the rim hurts, though; the Knicks have only had success with D'Antoni since Amar'e Stoudemire came to town, and Amir Johnson hasn't shown the consistency needed to earn that spot. The picture on Ed Davis is fuzzy.
28. New Jersey Nets (23-53, Prev: 27) -- Even though Kris "The Incredible Hump" Humphries and Deron Williams are finishing the season on the bench, you can't accuse the Nets of tanking, unless the Jazz are paying for losses under the table.
29. Minnesota Timberwolves (17-60, Prev: 29) -- Opposing shooting guards, small forwards, power forwards and centers all shoot better than 50 percent against the Wolves. How 'bout that point guard defense, right? The Wolves, meanwhile, only shoot better than 50 percent at power forward.
30. Cleveland Cavaliers (15-61, Prev: 30) -- If nothing else, this is the season J.J. Hickson and Byron Scott worked it out, that we found out Samardo Samuels was a legit NBA player and that the Cleveland Cavaliers beat LeBron James. Sunshine, y'all.